Fit for a King. Dalhousie Castle, Scotland
PUBLISHED: 11:08 23 March 2011 | UPDATED: 22:01 21 February 2013
Always wanted to stay in a castle? How about sleeping in the tower or clambering into a four poster overlooking the ramparts? Karen Bowerman went to Bonnyrigg, just outside Edinburgh, to see what it was like staying in a 13th century fortress ....
Fit for a King: Dalhousie Castle, Scotland
Always wanted to stay in a castle? How about sleeping in the tower or clambering into a four poster overlooking the ramparts? You can even try your hand at falconry, the sport of kings. Karen Bowerman went to Bonnyrigg, just outside Edinburgh, to see what it was like staying in a 13th century fortress .
Of course its full of stories! The castle steward exclaimed, picking up on a fleeting comment I made as I stood at the heavy wooden door of Dalhousie Castle in Scotland.
The castle, with its ivy-covered walls, ramparts and towers, stood in the warm glow of its floodlights; it looked as if had come straight out of a storybook.
The thing is, the steward asked interrupting my thoughts, what kind of story would you like?
He took my suitcase and beckoned me in, ducking under a narrow stairwell in the massive entrance hall. He began listing, as we walked, all the tales he could offer: romances, tragedies, histories, even hauntings stories he seemed particularly keen to share.
I suggested, at this point, that he might like to leave any talk of ghosts to the morning, whereupon he deposited me at reception, promised photographic evidence and bade me good night.
I slept (soundly) in an enchanting Rapunzel-like tower with stone walls and arrow-slit windows.
If youre looking for an authentic castle, Dalhousie near Bonnyrigg in Scotland, wont disappoint. Its the real McCoy, a 13th century fortress, with suits of armour, weaponry and wall-length tapestries.
Its also a boutique hotel, offering fine dining and an aqueous spa, the first to be built in Scotland. And its location, in parkland surrounded by pine forests and woods of wild garlic, makes it easy to forget that Edinburghs just eight miles away.
The weekend I stayed there was a small wedding. Guests were greeted by Dalhousies piper who strode up and down under the cedar tree looking resplendent in swathes of green and blue tartan.
Outside Dalhousies chapel I met the falconer with Lily, a barn owl. Attached to her ankle was a tiny net bag, secured with a tartan ribbon.
Shes about to deliver the rings, the handler explained.
I watched through the open door as the bird flew over the heads of astonished guests and landed on the grooms gloved hand.
Inspired, I headed to the aviary and booked an Owl Encounter where I was introduced to Duke, a Turkmanian Eagle Owl. He flew to his perch the other side of the lawn. I stood with my arm outstretched, and waited.
A few seconds later the bird dropped down, skimmed the grass, and at the very last moment swooped up to land effortlessly on my glove. He was surprisingly heavy to hold.
You can also try your hand at falconry. The birds flit so deftly from tree to tree that often the tingle of tiny bells is the only way youll manage to keep track of them.
That evening I dined in the Dungeon Restaurant, the castles former kitchens. Candles flickered on tables under arched stone walls. Suits of armour stood in small alcoves.
The food is fresh and wherever possible sourced locally. A typical menu offers lobster and pistachio tortellini, foie gras, Aberdeen Angus beef and roast partridge.
The castles original dungeon is now the wine cellar; ask to take a look. Stone steps end abruptly at a pane of glass, separating you from a twenty foot drop. Men were lowered into the pit by rope; you can still see the score marks in the walls.
On my last night as I enjoyed a whisky in the library, the steward appeared with a wry smile. He told me hed found the ghost. He showed me a photocopy of a snapshot taken during a wedding. A human-shaped smudge stood among the guests. Rather spookily the mother of the bride looked as if shed just turned to talk to it.
Yes, we have some very strange guests here, he said with a twinkle in his eye, Very strange indeed. Some, it seems, like it so much they never want to leave.
I leant back in the leather sofa and felt the whisky warm my throat. Then I smiled sweetly and assured him that despite Dalhousies charms I was one visitor whod be off in the morning.
Dalhousie Castle, Bonnyrigg, Scotland EH1J 3JB
Trains run direct from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Waverley station. Journey time 4hrs 20 mins. Dalhousie is 8 miles from Edinburgh.